Kesley Colbert

Oh, say can you see….

It used to amaze us as kids that Daddy’s favorite holiday was the Fourth of July. How could he not pick Christmas? How could anybody not pick Christmas! We liked fireworks and watermelons, bands and waving flags….but let’s be honest, they don’t beat a Red Ryder BB Gun under a Christmas tree.

Not by a long shot!

Dad would load us in the car early on the Fourth. He’d wave at every house and car we passed on our way to town. He didn’t give any Independence Day speeches. He didn’t dwell on why he loved it so much. He didn’t hardly say nothing at all.

He parked somewhere along Broadway Street or Cedar Avenue, on the square. The tables would already be set up, waiting for the red and white checked tablecloths….and the food. I never knew where the food came from. It just appeared.

Before noon rolled around piles of fried chicken, barbeque pork, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, turnip greens….everything you liked, just seemed to gravitate to the tables out of thin air. I learned pretty early to mosey over to the dessert side of this affair. If they had some of those strawberry shortcake things, I’d slip an appetizer in my mouth…. 

Of course, I checked first to make sure Dad was engaged in conversation with Mr. Holland, Jim Alexander, Chandler King or some other World War II veteran. I didn’t want to upset any apple carts by jumping the blessing by a few minutes. 

This was the early mid-fifties. Every man near ’bout in town, and some of the ladies, served in the war. We mostly took them for granted. They were just Rick’s father or Kay’s daddy, Bobby’s uncle, or some nameless guy that worked at the filling station….

There were too many to even count.

And oh, I was about to forget the cold drinks. We’d get maybe one Coca-Cola a summer, sometimes two. But on the Fourth of July in the town square, it was a whole ’nother deal. They had bushels of different cold drinks sitting in ice filled number 3 washtubs. I am not kidding you! They were free. And you could have all you wanted!

It wasn’t exactly a Red Ryder BB Gun. But free cold drinks in 1954 were like manna from Heaven!

David Mark and I would play on the World War I cannon while the old folks ate. There were sack races and people bobbed for apples. We could go and do anything we wanted until the band arrived. When they hit the first note of the Star Spangled Banner and the America flag was presented, we had to be next to Daddy….ramrod straight with our hands over our hearts.

We believed our lives depended on it! Daddy didn’t kid around about the flag. And his two favorite songs on earth were Columbus Stockade Blues and the National Anthem.

Sometime between elementary and high school they stopped holding those Fourth of July celebrations. I guess the town just outgrew them. It wasn’t a big deal with us. We had moved on to cars, girls and looking cool….

It took several years for me to get this picture into a little better focus. Daddy was inducted into the army December 20, 1942. He was honorably discharged on January 4, 1946. He gave this country four years in the very prime of his life.

He was sent to the South Pacific Theater in 1943. He went on eight major invasions, beginning in New Guinea as his battalion island hopped (with Douglas MacArthur) to the Philippines.

Dad was on Mindanao Island in August, 1945, gearing up to invade mainland Japan when the United States dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was December before he could catch a troop ship heading home. 

He never said one word about the fighting. Ever! He didn’t talk about how he got the bronze arrowheads or the Presidential Unit Citation. He only once referred to the 17 days and nights he was cut off behind enemy lines on Biak Island. And then he only said that was when his hair turned white.

He did talk about his first sighting of America in two and a half years…. “Just as we entered the harbor in San Francisco Bay someone draped a large American flag over the side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Son, that ship was carrying over 3,000 of the toughest, meanest, roughest, most war-hardened men that you could ever imagine. As that flag unfurled every single one of them dropped to their knees…. and cried like babies.”

That will make your Christmas BB Gun seem kinda insignificant.

And it might give us all a little better slant on what that “Ragged Old Flag” is all about….

Most Respectfully, 


Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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